Conservatives reveled in House Speaker John Boehner’s resignation announcement during the Value Voters Summit Friday, fervently cheering at each mention of his impending departure.
“Just a few minutes ago, Speaker Boehner announced that he will be resigning,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., announced, inspiring a standing ovation from the audience.
The audience’s eager reaction underscored the mounting divide between the Republican base and conservative newcomers who have promised a Washington shakeup.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who Boehner called a “jackass” last month, used the opening of his speech to highlight a leadership failure in pursuing a conservative agenda.
“You want to know how much each of you terrifies Washington? Yesterday, John Boehner was speaker of the House. You all come to town and somehow that changes,” Cruz said to loud cheers.
News of Boehner’s resignation broke earlier in the morning while Cruz was in the middle of a speech on religious liberty, detached from news alerts. Cruz, who is a frequent critics of Republican leadership, seemed unaware of the announcement until a reporter asked for his reaction.
“I have long said leadership decisions are decisions to be made by the House, but I have also called on Republican leadership to do something unusual, which is lead—to actually stand up and honor the commitments that we made to the American people,” Cruz said before an intimate crowd.
Cruz has framed his career in the Senate as the antithesis to “establishment” veterans, picking his latest fight with congressional leadership over tactics to defund Planned Parenthood with the threat of a government shutdown in his armory.
He blamed the rift on brewing “frustration” across America with Republican promises to pursue conservative policies ending in inaction.
“We’ve had Republican majorities in both houses of Congress for coming up on a year now and what on earth have they accomplished?” Cruz said.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., introduced the Texas senator by commending him for “exposing” Republican leadership’s willingness to fund programs, namely the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood, which conservatives have rallied against.
Boehner’s announcement comes just days before the House is expected to vote on the continuing resolution required to fund the government. The speaker released his plan to avert a government shutdown Thursday against pushback from conservatives who have vowed to reject any spending bill that includes funding for Planned Parenthood.